The following session report byDoris Gutsmiedl-Schümann (Freie Universität Berlin, Germany), Sacha Kacki (Université de Bordeaux, France), Marcel Keller (MPI-SHH Jena, Germany) and Christina Lee (University of Nottingham, UK) will be published in The European Archaeologist. With kind permission of the EAA.
Edit 17-02-07: filmed talks are now linked under the respective name.
Plague, an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, occurred in at least three major historical pandemics: the Justinianic Plague (6th to 8th century), the Black Death (1348-1352, with further epidemic outbreaks until the 18th century), and the Modern or Hong Kong Plague (19th to 20th century). However, it appears that the disease may be much older: DNA from Bronze Age human skeleton has recently shown that plague first emerged at least as early as 3000 BC. As any disease, plague has both a biological as well as a social dimension. Different disciplines can therefore explicate different aspects of plague which can lead to a better understanding of the disease and its medical and social implications.
The session was held on 2nd September 2016 as part of the 22nd Annual Meeting of the EAA with the aim of bringing together researchers from different disciplines who work on plague. It addressed a series of research questions, such as:
Which disciplines can contribute to the research on plague?
What are their methodological possibilities and the limitations of their methodologies?
How can different disciplines work together in order to gain a more realistic and detailed picture of plague in different periods and regions?
How did different societies react to plague? In which way may we prove or disprove evidence for such reactions – and which disciplines may contribute to the debate?
What where the common aspects, and what the differences of the various plague outbreaks? Are there any epidemiological characteristics that are essential and/or unique to plague?
What are possible implications of the pandemic spread and endemic occurrence of plague through the ages for the interpretation of historical and cultural phenomena?
I am a second-year PhD student at the University of Sheffield, in England. The aim of my PhD project is to apply new theory and methods recently developed in palaeodemography to gain a deeper understanding of mass fatality incidents. The current focus of this project is identifying the ‘lost’ plague victims from Medieval England.
Using a multi-disciplinary approach, combining demographic data from archaeological examples, along with evidence from contemporary documentary sources, my research project aims to identify episodes of mass mortality as a result of the Black Death in Medieval England, which to date have been mis- or un-identified in the archaeological record – and to discuss changes to burial practices and funerary rights during and after the Black Death.
I am a doctoral candidate based at the University of Manitoba, Canada.
I am currently undertaking the final stages of my doctoral research investigating patterns of health in two Danish cemetery populations dated from the mid-14th to the mid-16th centuries. This project has a number of facets. It involves a complete skeletal analysis of a sample of 167 individuals from these populations to identify age, sex, and other health dimensions (ex, stature and pathology). Through this, I am interested in changes in health across the period, particularly at the point bordering the mid-14th century. I am also considering the relationship between the two populations, one being rural and one being urban. Finally, I am conducting histological analysis of teeth from these individuals in order to on one level gain insight into the patterns of stress during development over time and on another level to consider the relationship between childhood stress and adult health.
My approach is bioarchaeological in nature – I am interested in looking at human health through the study of skeletal remains, but in the context of the socioeconomic and environmental context of the mid-14th century crises.
Ongoing analysis of the human skeletal remains from London by Sharon DeWitte reveals changes in health and lifespan in the wake of the Black Death, and adds to the growing body of bioarchaeological evidence that life for survivors was better.